The recently concluded Navaratri festival was one of healthy and sustainable food for me. The first day started with one of my good friends dropping in, to handover a few saplings of a rare variety of delicious jack fruit from his farm. He said so many saplings have sprung up from the trees on his land that he felt it his responsibility to distribute them to people who care to nurture them. I gladly accepted and made sure I re-distributed to 3 others who had the required place to grow them (jack fruit roots go deep and impact the building foundation, so a large farm or a big garden is ideal). I almost felt they were like children that needed to be housed under proper care and love. In return I shared with my friend a few papayas, coconuts and beetle-leaves grown at home. Over the next few days, we received tasty home grown chikoos/sapotas and home-made coconut oil from another friend in Mysore while we all sat down to a healthy, home-cooked meal for the festival. With yet another healthy-food-conscious friend we shared home grown pumpkin and papayas. I tell you the joy of receiving and giving homegrown produce is so different and precious as compared to carrying some sweets, namkeens & chocolates. Well, it matters to people who appreciate and care for simple things in life.
Having moved to healthy-living as a choice over the last few years, I got into a conversation with Anand in Mysore who shifted careers from a software engineer to a farm producer. He grows coconut trees and extracts wooden-pressed oils, cold pressed oils (in his traditional chakki) and trades in unpolished rice, unprocessed salt, organic jaggery etc. While I picked up quite a few stuff for self and a few friends, he shared so many interesting things about what is organic, what is natural, what is chemical-free, why people are made to believe that a higher price tag means a better quality (while it need not be so), how a 200 rupee oil is sold in a fancy store in a city at 800 rupees, how the supply chain works etc. He passionately spoke about coconut in its tender form, fruit form and dried form and how oil extracted at different stages (with and without roasting) impacts the nutrient value and the price. Just like so many other sustainability-champions he emphasised on allowing natural growth, curing & ripening time and extracting without short-changing the process. Anand shared a lot and I realised he is a fountain-head of traditional knowledge with genuine concern for Mother Earth and Sustainable Future.
This reminds me about 20th October which is celebrated as International Chef’s Day. Coincidentally the theme for 2020 is “Healthy & Sustainable Food for the Future”. It was interesting to watch a panel discussion on this theme hosted by the Institute of Hotel Management, Bangalore (incidentally my son was the student-moderator) that had India’s top corporate chefs and entrepreneurs sharing their thoughts, experiences and trends in healthy food and what chefs are doing about this. The insightful takeaways were – Healthy food is no more a buzzword, it is REAL. Hotels are offering responsible luxury and India Proud Food. Customers are dictating what they want. Chefs must be able to ‘create a story on the plate’ while being conscious of the Food miles, Fuel burn, Produce origin, Fair pricing for the farmers, Honest farming etc. One of them said we must be aware of what’s going into our body if we want to know what we are going to be in future. They talked about how chefs are rooting for local produce rather than imported ones which was the norm years ago, how the breakfast menu has shifted from processed cereals, bacon and sausages to fruits, veggie blends and freshly made local Indian cuisines. There was a piece of good advice – get children to read food labels and figure out the ingredients, their nutritional value, shelf life etc. before they make a choice to reach out to processed foods. Another well-known chef declared ‘Poori bhaji with (mota atta) whole wheat flour is any day healthier than egg white omelette and brown bread !’ The unanimous vote was for locally produced ingredients, with shorter shelf life (which meant fresh), artisanal food (no additives, preservatives, artificial colours), ethical food (with no hormones), understanding the farmer, eliminating middle-men and celebrating Indian Food. The message was loud and clear – For health & sustainable food go BACK TO THE ROOTS. WINDS OF CHANGE are surely blowing that way. Thankfully !
PC: Malidate Van
After publishing the last issue of Samhita, I had a chat with the Founder of the Dementia Village that I wrote about. As always, he had tons of information and insights to share but the following legal questions he raised were very pertinent as well as disturbing, considering that Dementia patients are mentally unsound :
1.The current labour laws in India permit only 8 hours duty for a caretaker. However in the case of a dementia caregiver, changing them every 8 hours poses different problems since the patient would have got adjusted to one of them and would find it difficult to accept that there is a different person coming in shifts. Looks simple to us but with memory loss and other behavioural problems patients get disturbed even more. Adjustment issues arise for the caregivers as well. The law needs to be modified.
2.How to take a dementia patient’s signature for drawing his pension or operating his bank account ? The law does not recognise the signature or consent of a mentally unsound person. Unless there is a joint holder, operation becomes difficult in a dementia case which is generally brushed aside as normal age related senility with no advance precaution taken.
3.How to protect the property and other assets of a dementia patient from being misused by devious relatives ? Due to unsound mind and loss of memory the patients are unable to take their own decisions and property can get into fraudulent hands. This is true during their lifetime and also thereafter, especially in the absence of a will.
All the above concerns are practical, real and thought-provoking calling for some advocacy and attention of the legislators to the plight of dementia patients and more importantly caregivers. Instead of waiting for the numbers to grow and worsen, action must be taken. Perhaps civil society, caregivers and other ecosystem stakeholders must take up these issues. Just like in other areas such as cancer where the awareness is growing on account of heightened activity by NGOs and support groups working in this space.
Talking of cancer, I cannot but highlight that October is dedicated for Breast Cancer (BC) awareness. With BC being on the rise, there are programmes galore but unfortunately most women are not interested in attending until they are actually affected. The 2020 theme is “Give Hope. Save Lives”. I would say an early detection is the way to save lives because BC is the best form of cancer to get. Largely curable and we are able to get back to normal lives – even better lives post cancer, provided we make the right changes in Eating Right, Breathing Right and Thinking Right. This week I had the opportunity to share my life experiences as a BC Victor – at Rotary and Sanjeevani – Life Beyond Cancer’s panel discussion (a Mumbai based Trust). Ruby Ahluwalia, a senior bureaucrat and BC Victor herself is the founder of this Trust that is doing incredible service to society since 2012 through their varied programmes. Present across the country, Sanjeevani is well networked with hospitals, doctors, caregivers, volunteers, interns, employees, social workers, colleges etc. Leveraging technology, they are able to reach out to the remotest part of the country and deliver hope to the underprivileged cancer patients and families. Do visit https://www.sanjeevani-lifebeyondcancer.com/about-us to find out what a person with a vision and a heart can do !